Monday, February 2, 2009

Cirque Du Salacious

Why is this clown smoking? Trust me, you don't want to know.

For years, my son and daughter have been using insults to express their mutual affection. In more innocent days, they coined naughty compound words like poo poo head. But they grow up. Now, my son calls my daughter "Bee-atch" and she responds with "clown penis", a pet name she got off of an old Saturday Night Live skit about a guy who finds that the only remaining available web address at aol is As a result, I never really thought about clown penii, except as a reason to leave the room when my children go into insult mode. Then again, that was before I moved to the famously libertine Bay Area, where consenting adults will consent to just about anything.

So my daughter signed up for a digital drawing class at an art school in San Francisco. The first day of class, the teacher, a portly fellow in his middle years, jovially announced that he had given every computer in the class its own individual desk top. On my daughter's screen was a picture of a fat male clown upon whom a female clown was performing what we will euphemistically call a circus act. Way too intimate, but nothing personal: every computer screen in the room was devoted to some kind of erotic clowning around.

As the teacher explained, the performers were from a group called the Filthy Dirty Clowns,* merry wanksters who, for a fee, will enliven your next cocktail party with their nasty numbers. Apparently, these activities have deep, existential meaning, sort of like being intimate with someone you love, minus the love and intimacy part, but plus an egg beater (don't ask). And it seems that once you go clown, you don't turn around. In fact, the instructor was convinced Heath Ledger's death had to be a suicide: How do you top playing the joker, the ultimate in perverted clowning? Having experienced that big top career high, why would Ledger want to stick around for the sad slide back to male romantic lead? One can only hope this Bozo never has a chance to share his insights with the Ledger family.

My daughter began noticing distressing similarities between the body type of the male clown on her screen and that of her teacher. She found herself visualizing him in whiteface and rednose and tried really, really hard not to go there. The arrival of that day's model - a lovely young woman who looked like she'd be fun to draw - was a welcome relief. Unfortunately, after the model disrobed and got into one of her poses, the drawing instructor pulled out a rubber clown mask and slipped it over her head.

In the corporate world, exposing people to clown porn, or even garden variety cheesecake, would qualify as sexual harassment. I remember when a female art director I worked with used a shirtless beefcake photo of Brad Pitt as her computer desk top. The uptight IT guy, whom nobody would EVER want to see without his shirt, complained to HR and my colleague was ordered to take Brad off her computer. Just think what could have happened had Brad been wearing pom poms and no pants.

But this is San Francisco, and art students apparently march to a different drum. No wonder my daughter's thinking about law school.

*Name changed to protect the, uh, innocent.

You know what they say about men with a large shoe size...

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